Our first vacation as a family of 4 was a much needed getaway and experience for all of us. I came home with a fresh perspective and a shift in grief. I saw that my life may be full of a lot of grief, pain and sadness, but it can also be full of life, energy, excitement and adventure.
The Outer Banks, North Carolina
Spring Break, 2021
That First Family Vacation After Child Loss
It’s one of my biggest fears that my girls will grow up and say that their life was never the same after their brother died. Even though it’s hard to do, I want them to have just as many happy childhood memories with their mom and dad that Caleb had. We are not the same parents they had before that tragic day, but how many times as parents have we put our needs to the side and pressed on for our children? Countless times! In contemplating if I was ready to travel while still in the midst of heavy grief, I pictured my girls’ smiling faces, watching them have fun and making new memories and I was convinced that it would definitely be worth it to take a trip for Spring Break. I remind myself often that I cannot lose what I have to what I have lost. Every little step I make in life matters to my daughters and I want them to know that they are worth it. I want them to know that I still want to live life with them and create new memories that we will cherish forever, just like we did with Caleb.
If you are in the midst of deep, unrelenting grief and don’t feel like you can ever enjoy living again, I didn’t think I could either. The majority of the nights I have gone to sleep since Caleb died, I have wished to not wake up in the morning. I encourage you to look to your loved ones and friends and try to plan a trip, if even for only one day, to connect with nature and with God outdoors away from the normalcy of your everyday life. I trust you will benefit from it just as I have. Please email me if you need someone to listen or offer advice on how to make a plan, I would more than happy to encourage you, firstname.lastname@example.org.
I desperately needed something exciting to look forward to! I had been wanting to visit The Outer Banks in North Carolina for quite awhile, so that’s where we decided to go. It looked like such a peaceful, calming, beautiful place to be. I purchased the flights first and made sure to buy the trip insurance, just in case we needed to cancel because we felt we weren’t ready to do it without Caleb. Travel planning is one of my favorite things to do and as I started to plan this trip, I realized how much I had missed it. I had fun looking for places to stay and things to see and do. Of course it was hard to plan everything for 4 people instead of 5 but I took my time with it, cried through it, made a plan and started to really look forward to the idea of seeing all the beauty of The Outer Banks.
We were all glad to be getting away from home and were excited to explore a new place. Just as the plane began it’s decent, three people were having a conversation very loudly that was hard for me to hear. I began to get anxious and tears started slowly falling down my face. My sweet husband overheard them as well and knew exactly what I was thinking and feeling without me having to say a word. He reached his arm across the aisle and started to gently rub my arm and back as I cried. My oldest daughter gave me headphones and played music for me so I didn’t have to listen to them anymore then she lovingly cleaned the smeared makeup off my face. I’m so grateful for their understanding and comfort when grief hits hard and fast. I feel as if my daughter thought quietly to herself, “Mom is going to be sad and cry this whole trip” because that’s usually how it goes.
We arrived in Corolla Beach just as the sun was setting and were greeted with a deep orange sunset, the color that always makes us think of Caleb…I knew and could feel that he was with us!
To keep Caleb included, with each dinner we ordered an appetizer that he would have ordered if he were there. This can be scary for some of us because Caleb ate ever-y-thing (but pickles)! The 5 things we ordered were, Firecracker Shrimp, Crab Dip, Onion Rings with Siracha Dip, Shrimp and Bacon Wontons and Fried Frog Legs. We had fun with it and enjoyed talking about Caleb through each of our meals.
My prayer to God as we started this vacation was that he would show me Caleb in unique ways. The only thing I was specific about was that He would show me 5 birds together and be able to take a picture of them. On the last morning as the 4 of us watched the sunrise together, 5 birds flew right by us and I was able to get a picture. My husband and I noticed that one bird was slightly separated from the others, but that they were still flying together. When God shows me things that are specific to Caleb, I know and believe He is reminding me that He sees me, He knows my pain, He weeps with me and He is comforting me with every step I take.
Here are three more things I saw that are specific to Caleb. He was a lifeguard, in my logo for this website is a life preserver and this one we saw was orange! I had never seen an orange life preserver before so it was special to me! Our nickname for him is “Goose” and Caleb always jokingly said, “You don’t know this yet, but I’m kind of a big deal around here,” and that is the last picture I took on our first vacation as a family of 4.
There has been so much pain under the surface of everything we have done since Caleb went to Heaven, but I can honestly say that this vacation was not painful at all. It was very fun, enjoyable, relaxing, peaceful, calm and cherished new memories were made. We reconnected as a family. We laughed together, we played together, we collected sea shells together and we were all in the same moment, and only that moment, together. Did I see that it is possible to enjoy being alive again after such a devastating tragedy? Yes, I did! I see very clearly that it is possible, and not only that, that it is necessary to have fun, exciting, adventurous new things to look forward to. Caleb was not physically with us but his heart, love and spirit definitely were!
The Outer Banks is good for a grieving heart!
The lyrics to the song “Oceans” my Hillsong United played in my mind as I stood at the edge of the Sea missing my son terribly, deeply, immensely.
Your grace abounds in deepest waters. Your sovereign hand will be my guide. Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me you’ve never failed and You won’t start now. So I will call upon Your name and keep my eyes above the waves when oceans rise my soul will rest in Your embrace For I am Yours and You are mine.
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the water wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.